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Hurricane Ian was upgraded to a Category 3 hurricane early Tuesday morning ahead of making landfall in western Cuba. This distinction means that the powerful storm is producing winds with speeds between 111 and 129 miles per hour, according to the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Such speeds are strong enough to uproot trees and cause major infrastructure damage to buildings and roads, as well as electricity and water sources. And that's not all.
Ian is expected to be the first hurricane to make landfall in Tampa since 1946. In anticipation of this likely devastation, President Joe Biden has reached out to local officials in the Sunshine State. Meanwhile, Gov. Ron DeSantis, R-Fla., has warned residents to brace themselves for power outages, gasoline shortages and downed cell phone towers. He has also declared a statewide emergency, calling attention to the potential for "historic" flooding.
"What we have here is really historic storm surge and flooding potential," DeSantis said at a Tuesday morning news conference. "That storm surge can be life-threatening."
Last year, DeSantis unveiled "Always Ready Florida," a three-year plan to "enhance efforts to protect our coastlines, communities and shores." Yahoo News senior editor David Knowles reported at the time that the governor had taken "pains to keep from framing the plan in terms of climate change mitigation."
"What I've found is when people start talking about things like global warming, they typically use that as a pretext to do a bunch of left-wing things that they would want to do anyways," DeSantis then said. "And so we're not doing any left-wing stuff."
However, a major factor contributing to the rapid intensification of Hurricane Ian is the same one that fueled other destructive storms before it, such as Hurricanes Florence and Maria in the Atlantic Ocean and Hurricane Agatha in the Pacific Ocean. "Rapid intensification" refers to the process in which a storm's maximum sustained winds increase in speed by at least 35 mph in a 24-hour period. According to scientists who spoke with Salon, a significant factor contributing to this series of storms experiencing rapid intensification — if not indeed the main factor — is climate change.
"These storms are on average 20-30% more intense and destructive, owing to the roughly 1C (2F) warming of the oceans that has taken place so far," Dr. Michael E. Mann, the climatologist and geophysicist who is the director of the Earth System Science Center at Pennsylvania State University, told Salon by email. "They also produce as much as 30% more flooding rainfall due to a combination of more evaporation from a warmer ocean surface and stronger winds that entrain more moisture into the storms."
Susan Buchanan, a spokesperson for the National Weather Service, told Salon by email that when you consider the dynamics of climate change — specifically how it causes the surface ocean to warm, which then can be expected to fuel more powerful tropical storms — it suggests Americans are going to have a worsening problem with severe storms.
"The proportion of Category 4 and 5 tropical cyclones has increased, possibly due to climate change, and is projected to increase further," Buchanan said, referring to storms with winds from 130 to 156 mph (Category 4) or in excess of 156 mph (Category 5). "In addition, the atmosphere is holding more moisture due to climate change, so these large storms are creating heavier rainfall. These torrential downpours are leading to more coastal and inland flash flooding and river floods."
Buchanan also noted that rising sea levels, which are caused by climate change, cause stronger storm surges and increase flooding hazards in coastal communities. At the same time, she qualified her assessment by noting that "any single weather event needs to be studied after it's over by climate scientists to make this determination."
To be clear, climate change is not alone in worsening the impact of superstorms such as Hurricane Ian. Kevin Trenberth of the National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) told Salon by email that La Niña — a weather pattern that occurs naturally in the Pacific Ocean — is also playing a role here.
"The environment Ian is occurring in has definitely changed because of climate change," Trenberth told Salon by email. "There is also a natural variability component, especially the La Niña in place. Sea surface temperatures are higher, ocean heat content is higher and sea level is higher." As a result, Trenberth noted that there is now roughly 10 to 15% more moisture in the atmosphere, which becomes excess rainfall and worsens the storm.
In the case of Hurricane Ian, scientists and public officials agree that it will be necessary for Floridians to take certain safety precautions. Mann told Salon that much will depend on the storm's exact path, which remains uncertain.
"A worst-case scenario is that the storm travels right past Tampa paralleling the coast, driving a storm surge of 12 feet or more," Mann said. "Owing to the long shallow coastal shelf and extensive low-lying coastline, the storm surge combined with inland flooding from heavy rainfall could displace millions of people. I warned of such a scenario a few years ago in the Tampa Bay Times."
Rather than waiting until a storm is bearing down, Buchanan would advise individuals to begin making preparations in advance of each hurricane season. When a storm approaches, it's imperative to listen to emergency officials, including evacuating if necessary; staying off the roads during and after the storm; preparing emergency kits that include food, water, medications and other basic supplies; keeping electronic devices charged in case of lost power; and reviewing insurance policies, among other things.
"Even people outside the immediate impact area could receive high winds and heavy rainfall," Buchanan pointed out, saying that even individuals in those areas can prepare by trimming large branches which could be knocked down, securing their outdoor property and checking on loves ones like elderly individuals and pets.
Fox News pundits on Tuesday urged parents to not let their kids go trick-or-treating on Halloween because, they claimed, that candy could be laced with fentanyl.
The panel's discussion took place shortly after the United States Department of Justice announced that the Drug Enforcement Agency "seized more than 10.2 million fentanyl pills and approximately 980 pounds of fentanyl powder during the period of May 23 through Sept. 8, 2022. The amount of fentanyl taken off the streets during this surge is equivalent to more than 36 million lethal doses removed from the illegal drug supply. Additionally, 338 weapons were seized, including rifles, shotguns, pistols, and hand grenades."
But the comments on The Five are part of the right-wing's broader campaign of fearmongering surrounding the deadly synthetic opioid, which drug dealers frequently add to their products to increase volume. There is no evidence, however, that confections are laced with the surgical painkiller either by the manufacturers or unsuspecting neighbors.
Judge Jeanine Pirro noted to host Dana Perino that "you know, Dana, young children now going out to trick-or-treat – basically parents have a decision to make. You don't let your kids get that candy," stressing that "it doesn't mean that the person giving it out is intending to harm."
Watters then recommended that families "throw away all the Nerds and the SweeTarts," to which Perino added, "or you decide there's not going to be massive Halloween parading. There's going to be small groups with families that we know; we're going to do this in our backyard or our basement and that's how we're going to do it."
\u201cTaking the next logical step in the rainbow fentanyl panic, Fox News is now literally telling viewers not to let their kids go trick-or-treating this year.\u201d— Justin Baragona (@Justin Baragona) 1664315253
Gov. Ron DeSantis is facing a scandal as Hurricane Ian approaches Florida.
"Gadsden County religious leaders are demanding a local commissioner and Gov. Ron DeSantis 'come forward' to address allegations that the commissioner resigned last Friday after a photo surfaced purportedly showing him wearing a Ku Klux Klan robe and hood at what could have been a Halloween party years earlier," the Tallahassee Democrat reported. "Jeffery Moore, a Havana resident and former Department of Revenue employee, was appointed by DeSantis in late July and abruptly resigned from the post in Florida’s only predominantly Black county after the photo began circulating in the local community."
Moore is the past chairman of the Gadsden Soil and Water Conservation District.
Moore also ended his re-election campaign.
"The local clergy will hold a press conference in front of the Gadsden County Courthouse, 10 E. Jefferson St., at 11 a.m. Wednesday to ask Moore and DeSantis to own up to the photo or deny it," the newspaper reported.
Moore did not list a reason for quitting in his resignation letter.
"Moore did not respond to questions about his resignation, the photo or the KKK outfit. In an email to the Tallahassee Democrat, he said he was "in the middle of hurricane preparations" and would be in contact on Tuesday afternoon or Wednesday morning," the newspaper reported. "As of late Tuesday afternoon, he has not replied."
Read the full report.